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My Beta Blog

Posted by VioletBlade , 11 April 2012 · 425 views

Today as a part of my extra credit for an English course, I attended a Sentence Structure and Common Grammar Mistakes seminar. It actually proved incredibly helpful! And, as an attempt to stop cluttering up my reviews from my Reviews Thread here on HPFF, I decided to create a blog on what I learned! This will be the blog I defer anyone to if I find specific grammatical errors within their story. That way, I'm not spending line after line commenting on which sentences need commas and which don't. I have found myself betaing each story I review, and, as I stated at the beginning of my review, it was never my intention to do so.

First off, sentence structure! Oh, I know, it's incredibly exciting! :)

First I will define Independent Clauses versus Dependent Clauses. Independent Clauses are sentences that can stand alone, while Dependent Clauses would be a fragment without another piece of a sentence attached to them.

Example of an Independent Clause: I went jogging today.
Example of a Dependent Clause: Before you go.

Ticks: (Credit to my English teacher because they "suck" the life out of an independent clause) These are words such as Since, After, Before, etc. that make a previously independent clause not able to stand on its own.

There are four types of sentence types.

Simple, Compound, Complex, and Compound-Complex.

Simple sentences have one independent clause, and 0 independent clauses.

Compound sentences have 2+ I.D. & 0 D.C.'s.

Complex sentences have 1 I.C. & 1 D.C.

Compound-Complex sentences have 2+ I.C.'s & 1+ D.C.'s.

If you put a dependent clause BEFORE an independent clause, there must be a comma to separate them.

With two independent clauses, you must have a ; or a fanboy no matter what.

Fanboys: (Credit to my English Teacher) These are what we call replacements for the semi-colon. They must include a comma before each word.


There are a couple common types of errors that I will address, and, if you've clicked on this blog because I referred you to it within a review, I will more than likely have told you directly which error you are making.

Comma Splice: This is where you use a comma in place of a semi-colon. Remember, if there are ever two independent clauses within a sentences, even if there is a dependent clause separating them, there must be a semi colon involved or a Fanboy.

Example: Rose was stopped by four professors today, Rose was late for Charms.

Now, the above is kind of an obvious example... I don't know that even before having had this lesson I would have thought a simple comma would suffice there, but for the purposes of an example, it works. Thankfully, there are many options to correct the above sentence into something much more grammatically correct.

Rose was stopped by four professors today. Rose was late for Charms.


Rose was stopped by four professors today; Rose was late for Charms. (using a form of end-stop punctuation like a period, exclamation point, or a semi colon)

Next, we'll try using a fanboy. This is the strategy I would personally use as it flows the best.

Rose was stopped by four professors today, so Rose was late for Charms.

Any fanboy will do, but remember, there must be a comma before the usage of the fanboy!

Next, I'll talk about Run-Ons. Run-ons are two independent clauses without a semicolon or a comma. Basically, using the example above, a run-on sentence would look like this:

Example: I was stopped at all the traffic lights today I was late for school. (Again, this sentence isn't the best example because I know I've been guilty of run-on sentences before and yet I'd never have done something like this.)

Third is Comma Errors. Comma Errors are misusing a comma.

Usually, no commas need to be used before words such as because, and while, except in cases of extreme contrasts. What I mean by that is if you have a sentence like:

"Hermione was still furious, although Ron had asked her to the Yule Ball."

When to use a comma:

Like I stated before, if you start your sentence off with a dependent clause followed by an independent clause, you need a comma.

Example: Because she wanted to, Padma got up and danced.

You also need commas separating a part of sentence that, if taken out, doesn't change the meaning of the sentence.

Example: Today Harry will talk to me, even though he never has before, and I will jump with happiness.

Finally, we have the Oxford Comma:

Ron ate lunch, pizza and a burger.
Ron ate lunch: pizza and a burger.

Ron ate lunch, pizza, and a burger.

In the first two sentences, you are listing that you've eaten lunch which consisted of a pizza and a burger.

In the last sentence, you've stated you ate lunch and a pizza and a burger.

Obviously, there are many other reasons to use a comma and if you have a specific question or would like me to address something else, feel free to comment! However, to make this a more manageable blog, I'll just keep it what I listed above.

Addressing Dialogue Tags:

This is something I find frequently within stories and will always comment on, so I'm going to put it in this blog!

Dialogue Tags refer to using dialogue within a story. What do I mean by that? Well, let me show you!

"You're looking good today," Draco said to Astoria. (Notice how I'm canon even in a grammatical blog? :p)


Draco said to Astoria, "You're looking good today."


"You're looking good today," he said to Astoria. (Notice that 'he' is not capitalized)

Incorrect ways to use Dialogue Tags:

"You're looking good today." Draco said to Astoria.


"You're looking good today." He said to Astoria.

Exceptions (because the English language wouldn't be fun without them :p):

These are actually more like different ways to word a sentence to get around the confusing bits of dialogue tags by simply doing away with them!

"You're looking good today." Draco turned towards the wall. (Here it is clear Draco is still the one talking, however, he doesn't need the comma and subsequent dialogue tags because the sentence afterwards is complete.)

"You're looking good today." He winked. (Basically, you need to have a complete sentence after the dialogue to get away with not using tags. However, it should still be easy to tell who is speaking as that is the basic purpose of using dialogue tags at all. Sometimes you can get away with not having anything after a sentence of dialogue, but if you do that too much, it simply confuses the reader as to who is saying what.

And finally... the section of Who v. Whom and when to use a 'that'.

Who v. Whom is actually a LOT less complicated than I thought and was told! Basically, Who is used when you're talking about a subject, Whom is when you're talking about an object.

The List: (the subject comes first in these sentences, followed by a verb, than the object)

I told me.
He told him.
She told her.
They hit them.
Who hit whom.

Some Examples to Clear Things Up:

Who raised their hand? Here you're asking about the subject, thus you use 'who'. The subject is underlined.

Whom did I see raise their hand? 'I' is the subject here, as you can see by the underlining. Thus, you use 'whom' because you're asking about the 'object'.

When to use 'That': (I'd honestly never thought about this much until my own beta pointed out how many times I used the word!)

After sentences such as he said, she said, they said, you may be tempted to insert a that... don't. In this case, the sentence meaning doesn't change when 'that' is omitted, thus the best choice is to leave out a 'that' to avoid clutter.

Example: He said (that) he was tired. Instead use:

He said he was tired.

So when do I use it?

It's mostly up to personal judgement, however, if the sentence can stand on its own without a that added, it's best to leave it out.

Why? The reason we try to avoid using 'that' incorrectly is because it creates a passive voice. In English, using a passive voice is frowned upon. Sometimes it works, but often times, it just doesn't.

Some Random Bits:

If I tell you within your review...

You're not using apostrophes correctly, you're probably not putting them in the right spot. If anything is plural, the apostrophe goes after the 's'. Or, actually, credited to pennyardelle, you can use the apostrophe in a singular that ends in an 's' like, "James's broom flew high into the air."

You're switching POV: You're writing in first person, so using something like I was a wizard. to Harry (being the main character) didn't know what to do with this information.

Antecedent Error: The Malfoy boy and Albus knew he was in trouble. (Who is in trouble? "The Malfoy boy" or "Albus?")

Well, that's it! Go on, go cheer, you've earned it for sitting through this! I'll probably update this blog once in awhile if I've come across anything else I think needs to be addressed, usually something within stories I've been reading lately. I will also update if anyone has clarifications or questions! (Or if you'd like to see anything else mentioned!)

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I Was Not Magnificent
Apr 11 2012 02:57 AM
I've found this really helpful! Thank you for sharing it with us. :D xxx
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Apr 11 2012 03:33 AM
It's always nice to see people conscious of grammar. :) It really does make a big difference in readability, and it seems that so few people these days really understand it.

I did want to offer some clarification on a couple things, since you seemed to be open to it. One thing is that the use of an Oxford Comma is more a style thing than a matter of grammar. If you say "lunch, pizza and a burger", it can technically mean the same thing as "lunch, pizza, and a burger". There's a lot of debate about Oxford Commas, and I hugely prefer when people use them, because it does help with clarity. Still, it's not incorrect, and doesn't change the grammatical meaning of the sentence, if you don't use one. (However, you were quite right about the fact that you should use a colon in the first example if you're trying to explain that lunch consisted of a pizza and a burger.)

The second thing is something that you might know already, but I figure it's valid to mention anyway. When it comes to possessive apostrophes and words that end with "s", there is some geographical variation. This doesn't really apply so much to plural words, which are standard in both American and British grammar, but to singular words ending with "s". If the word is singular and ends in "s", then it's acceptable under American rules to add apostrophe + "s". So it would be acceptable, depending on where you learn your grammar, to write either James' or James's. (I mainly mention this because I've gotten flack in the past for writing it the former way, even though it's perfectly acceptable.)

Anyway, I hope people will find your blog helpful! The Grammar Guidelines area of Writer's Resources can also be a good place to refer people to if they need help. :)
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Apr 11 2012 03:58 AM
Yes, that's what he said at the lecture today about the Oxford Comma actually! Can you believe I've never heard of it until today? Anyway, he did say it was largely under debate still and there was no "right" way to use it, which, well, now that you mention sounds exactly like the English language to me! :p

And you know, I didn't know that Penny! I definitely thought it was incorrect to put an extra 's' at the end of a plural possessive. I'll add that in :)

I Was Not Magnificent-- glad to hear it! I know these blogs come around once in awhile but they're usually focused on something specific. Plus, I wanted to have a direct place to send my requesters should they have questions with anything I said in a review!
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Apr 11 2012 04:05 AM
Oh no, don't worry, I'm pretty sure it is incorrect to put another "s" with plurals. :D It's just with singulars, you can add an extra "s" and have it still be correct. But I probably mentioned that more because of my own experiences with people not knowing the difference. :p
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Apr 11 2012 07:55 AM
GO GRAMMAR! *dances*

Sorry. :p
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This is a really good blog.
I loved that you mentioned the "When to use that" issue. I used volunteer at a school as an English tutor and I had to realise pretty quickly that this is actually the most difficult grammar problem for Hebrew speaker, because in Hebrew not using "that" in a sentence like "Draco said he was tired" is a mistake. Just like using the sentence "Draco said he tired" is a mistake in English. I haven't seen it being reffered to a lot, though.
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That was really helpful, especially the part on Dialogue Tags. It's comforting to know that my use of comma and dialogue tags is correct because while betaing stories I've seen so many different uses of those that I sometimes started to doubt my grammar knowledge. (That's not supposed to be an insult, please, don't get me wrong. It's just that the English language sometimes seems to lack of clear grammar guidelines...:) ) Thanks for clarifying that!!!
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Apr 12 2012 12:35 AM
I love this blog! :wub: So useful - definitely going to bookmark it for future reference. Grammar is important! This is quite useful.
(And you mentioned Oxford Commas - love!)
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